Almost every tent on the market comes with tent stakes, but are they necessary. Obviously some tents use the stakes for structural integrity, but that’s not the case with freestanding tents. It almost seems like they’re completely unnecessary. Do you need to stake a freestanding tent?
Stakes are always a good idea, but freestanding stakes don’t technically need to be staked out to hold their shape. You really only need to stake down a freestanding tent on windy/rainy days. Stakes also help hold the tents shape to maximize the floorplan, but that’s a subtle difference. You do have to use a stake with the vestibule because that’s rarely supported by the tent structure.
So if stakes aren’t entirely necessary, does that mean I shouldn’t bother using them? No it’s always a good idea to use tent stakes. You don’t want to risk damaging your gear because of 2 minutes of work. There
The only valid reason not to carry stakes is to cut down pack weight and there are lightweight options. MSR Groundhog stakes weigh .46 oz each and have twice the holding power of traditional steel/aluminum stakes. A single common stake that comes with the average tent weighs more than 6 MSR Groundhogs. You can always anchor the corners with rocks, but stakes are much easier.
Don’t let your gear get damaged, because of a simple mistake. Keep reading to learn a few more reasons why staking down your tent makes sense.
Do You Need To Stake A Freestanding Tent?
Tent stakes really aren’t necessary for the structural support of the tent. The tent poles are held in place by the corners of the tent and then the frame attaches to the fabric for additional support. So do I really need to use tent stakes if they don’t impact the tent’s structure?
Technically, you don’t really need to use them, but not staking down your tent is extremely reckless. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like at the moment. Take 2 minutes out of your day to stake down the corners just in case. You don’t want wind to pick up unexpectedly and blow your tent away.
Your tent might be able to withstand 20-40 mph of wind when it’s staked down, but it’s basically like a giant kite. It doesn’t take much to pick up the tent and blow it away. With the windows and doors opened it’s even worse.
Think about it for a minute. The average backpacking tent weighs less than 4lbs. That’s less than the weight of a 2 Liter bottle of soda spread across a 50-80 square foot area. A 5mph gust is all it takes to lift up an empty tent. It’s less of an issue once you get gear inside, but it’s still not worth the risk.
A thin fabric tent is the only thing standing between you and the outside elements. Do you really want to risk damaging the tent, because you’re too lazy to stake the corners? I don’t know about you, but the risk just isn’t worth it for me!
Wind Can Cause Serious Damage To Tents
Have you ever seen a tent that blew away in the wind? Unfortunately, I’ve been the dummy that failed to stake my tent down on a slightly windy day. I put the tent up on a rockface so wasn’t able to use stakes. Walked about 30 feet away from the tent to grab a rock to hold it down and it took off into the air.
The tent only blew about 15 feet before the wind died down, but the damage was already done. My aluminum poles were completely mangled and there was a tear along the tent wall. I got through that trip with duct tape on the fabric and sticks to sturdy up the pole, but the tent was ruined.
30 seconds of poor judgement cost me $300+ for a new tent. Now I’m more careful making sure I stake down the tent immediately.
Repairing Wind Damaged Poles
Repairing a damaged tent pole isn’t all that challenging, but the pole will never be the same. Most poles are made out of aluminum or fiberglass to cut down weight. Fiberglass poles snap off or split, and aluminum poles bend at the stress point.
Obviously a snapped/split pole seems terrible, but a slight aluminum bend is just as bad. Once aluminum starts bending it quickly loses its structural integrity. It doesn’t matter what you do. The pole will never be as strong!
A split pole can be repaired with duct tape, but a bent or snapped off pole will need a splint. Tent pole repair splints are by far the best way to fix a bent pole in the field. I carry Coghlans Tent Repair Kit (has splints Shockcord and Washers), Tenacious Tape Patches, Duct tape and a few other odds and ends in a tiny repair kit. The entire kit weighs about 3 oz and it’s saved my butt a handful of times.
Tent pole splints are very easy to use. Just slip the splint over the broken tent pole and wrap duct tape around the edges. You can rig it together with extra guyline or cord if you don’t carry tape. The following video will give you a brief demonstration.
You can rig up a temporary makeshift splint using sticks and tape if you don’t have an aluminum splint. Just make sure you break the stick down to size and dull the edges so it doesn’t stick through the tent walls.
Replacement tent pole kits are cheap so replace the pole when you get home and you can reuse the splint as many times as you’d like. Coleman’s tent pole kit comes with 4 replacement poles and 10 feet of shock cord. That should be enough replacement poles for the rest of your life, unless you’re the most clumsy man on the planet.
What If I Can’t Use Tent Stakes?
As I mentioned above there are times when you won’t be able to stake the tent down into the ground. The most common causes are hard rock faces, sand, and frozen ground. Anchoring a freestanding tent without stakes is easy so don’t worry. Just take 4 big rocks and stick them on each of the corners. Steel and aluminum stakes have about 15lbs of holding power so that should be your goal weight.
Semi-Freestanding Tents Do Need Stakes
Semi-Freestanding tents might look similar to a traditional freestanding tent, but the frame structure relies on a few strategically placed stakes to hold it up. You usually have to use them to stake out the vestibules and hold the walls rigid.
Using a semi-freestanding tent without stakes is possible, but it’s kind of a pain. You would have to crawl through a collapsed tunnel and move fabric out of the way to get into the tent.